Alternate Forms of Tobacco Have Long-Term Health Risks
Specialists at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi have marked “World No Tobacco Day” on May 31 by highlighting the dangers of alternative forms of tobacco, such as shisha and medwakh.
Recent moves to combat smoking in the UAE have made some progress in reducing cigarette smoking both in public and in the home. However, alternative forms of tobacco such as shisha and medwakh – a small pipe used to smoke tobacco – remain popular across the UAE.
“Our national challenge is to help people to decide to quit smoking and then support them through their journey to a tobacco-free future. With alternative forms of smoking such as shisha and medwakh, people underestimate the health risks, so there is a need to inform and educate,” explains Iyaad Hasan, a tobacco cessation specialist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
Smokers often believe shisha and medwakh to be less harmful than cigarettes, because with shisha the smoke is passed through water, and with medwakh the tobacco is mixed with leaves, tree bark and herbs. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that both have the same or greater health risks.
“The chemical content that comes off shisha smoke is 100 times that of a cigarette, so a 60-minute shisha session is like smoking 100 cigarettes,” says Hasan. “We need to convince people that there is no such thing as a ‘healthy smoke’ – smokers need to quit the habit to preserve their health.”
Recent research conducted by Herriot-Watt University in Dubai suggests medwakh use could be on the rise among high school students. People who start smoking in their teenage years are significantly more likely to maintain the habit into their adulthood, making intervention at a young age vitally important.
“It’s very worrying to see the next generation making the damaging choice to start smoking. One hit of medwakh contains as much nicotine as five cigarettes , so just taking four in a day is equivalent to smoking a packet of cigarettes. Medwakh is a real danger to public health and stopping the spread of the habit is of the upmost importance,” says Hasan.
In addition to the immediate benefits, Hasan says that quitting smoking for more than a year significantly reduces a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke.
Replicating the successful program from Cleveland Clinic in the US, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Smoking Cessation Program follows smokers from their decision to quit, through to life after smoking, creating a customized program for each individual. The program takes participants beyond their ‘quit date’, helping them to avoid a relapse by offering diet and lifestyle tips, as well as information on how to avoid triggers to prevent a relapse.